Wednesday, June 07, 2017


Finding Relief in Herculaneum

Alison E. Cooley and M.G.L. Cooley, Pompeii and Herculaneum: A Sourcebook, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2014), p. 110 (abbreviation of Ins. Or. expanded by me):
D109 An imperial doctor visits the latrine

Apollinaris, doctor of emperor Titus, has had a good shit here.
                                                                        (CIL IV 10619)

This graffito appears on the wall of a latrine in the 'House of the Gem', Ins[ula] Or[ientalis] I.1, Herculaneum.
The Latin (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum IV 10619):
Apollinaris medicus Titi Imp(eratoris) / hic cacavit bene
Heikki Solin, review of Corpus inscriptionum Latinarum ... Voluminis quarti supplementi pars tertia in Gnomon 45 (1973) 258-277 (at 272):
10619. Apollinaris medicus Titi Imp. brauch nicht Arzt des Titus sein, man kann gleich gut A. medicus, Titi Imp. (servus) verstehen.
Garrett G. Fagan, "Bathing for Health with Celsus and Pliny the Elder," Classical Quarterly 56.1 (May, 2006) 190-207 (at 204, n. 63):
I see no reason to think that Titus' doctor actually scribbled this report on the toilet wall, as is often assumed; see M. Della Corte, 'Le iscrizioni di Ercolano', RendNap 33 (1958), 239-308 (274 on this graffito); A. Maiuri, Ercolano: I nuovi scavi 1927-1958 (Rome, 1958), I.475 n. 136; id., Herculaneum (Rome, 19643), 63; Neudecker (n. 59), 34. That this graffito juxtaposes an important person with bowel-related crudity, and so closely echoes the form of the vulgarity in the Baths of the Seven Sages, suggests to me it was designed, like the Sages' didascalia, to be a joke (see next note). If this is the case, the text constitutes another reflection of popular reception of 'high' medical precepts.
Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, The Archaeology of Sanitation in Roman Italy: Toilets, Sewers, and Water Systems (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), p. 112, with note on p. 244:
What did the residents of Pompeii and Herculaneum, whose modest public facilities we have surveyed above, write on the walls of their latrines? Perhaps the most cited and surely one of the more apparently honest remarks is that of Apollinaris, a doctor of the emperor Titus, who wrote the following upon a visit to Herculaneum: APOLLINARIS. MEDICUS. TITI IMP. HIC. CACAVIT. BENE: "Apollinaris, doctor of the emperor Titus, crapped well here."63 Rather than accepting the text at face value, I think it more likely that it was written as a joke.

63. CIL 4, suppl. 3, leg. 4, 10619. See A. and M. De Vos, Pompei, Ercolano, Stabia, 277. This graffito was found in the Casa della Gemma. An expression of professional pride combines with personal satisfaction, according to Neudecker, Die Pracht der Latrine, 34.
Antonio Varone, "Newly Discovered and Corrected Readings of iscrizioni 'privatissime' from the Vesuvian Region," in Rebecca Benefiel and Peter Keegan, edd., Inscriptions in the Private Sphere in the Greco-Roman World (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 113-130 (at 119-120):
I note in this regard the rather formal message left in a refined style of handwriting, which one might call almost pompous, by none other than a famous doctor to his own contemporaries (and inadvertently to posterity) in the latrine of the luxurious Casa della Gemma in Herculaneum (Ins. Orientalis I, nr. 1), where he was likely a guest:18

Apollinaris medicus Titi imp(eratoris) | hic cacavit bene

Apollinaris, doctor of the emperor Titus, shat well here.

The attention to defecation that is registered by the graffiti certainly is surprising, characterizing with crisp immediacy an entire scenario, as if giving us the cadence of a daily sigh of the society at that time.

18 CIL IV.10619. Image reproduced in Varone 2012, 500. Cf. Gasperini 1973, 338, and Solin 1973, 272. As Keegan has suggested to me, one could also imagine that the inscription was created by a member of the familia as a memory of a visit to the house by so distinguished a personage, and one who was also the author, according to Maiuri (1958, 475, n. 136), of a medical work used as a reference by Marcellus Empiricus. If so, one could think of similar inscriptions, found in other houses that, rather than a direct record of a distinguished guest, might be an indirect memory of such a visit, as, for example: Cucuta ab ra[t]ioni[b]us Neronis Augusti (CIL IV.8067–8068), found in the so-called Casa di Paquio Proculo (I.7.1, 20). The list of Vesuvian inscriptions found in latrines is given by Jansen 2011, 192 n. 61–62.
In other words, like "Washington slept here," Apollinaris shat here.

There is also a Doctor Apollinaris (Titus Julius Rosianus Apollinaris) mentioned on a tombstone erected by his freedmen Arescon and Callistus (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI 9584, now lost):
D(is) M(anibus) / T(ito) Iulio / Rosiano / Apollinari / medico / Arescon et / Callistus lib(erti) / patrono b(ene) m(erenti) f(ecerunt)
Thanks to Eric Thomson for pictures of the graffito and the latrine from Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Herculaneum: Past and Future (London: Francis Lincoln, 2011) p. 294:


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